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Five big questions ahead of Maryland football’s depth chart release

A handful of starting spots are still undecided.

Big Ten Football Media Days

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Maryland’s announcement of Josh Jackson as its starting quarterback.

Maryland football’s season opener is just five days away — the Terps will take on the Howard Bison in College Park on Saturday, Aug. 31, at noon ET.

As close as we are to week one, there hasn’t been an official depth chart released just yet. That will change on Tuesday morning when the team puts out its first list of starters. There are a number of questions that will be addressed; let’s take a look at the five biggest.

Who is the starting quarterback?

Update: It’s Josh Jackson.

This is almost always the biggest question surrounding Maryland football. There is no position in sports more important than quarterback, and given the Terps’ injury history in recent years, that is even more true.

Head coach Mike Locksley always planned on making a final decision between Jackson and Tyrrell Pigrome on “Sunday or Monday.” The team announced Jackson as its starter in a press release Monday afternoon. While he was the long-assumed favorite, and the staff’s mind could have been made up for a while, the battle still appeared up in the air late last week.

Last season before the Texas game, Maryland’s first depth chart had “Kasim Hill OR Tyrrell Pigrome” listed as the starting quarterback, with the former eventually getting the nod. That subterfuge didn’t make a return appearance this time.

Who steps up at wide receiver?

Maryland’s pass-catching corps was expected to be led by sophomore Jeshaun Jones, but he tore his ACL a few weeks ago in fall camp. Now, the leading returning receiver is sophomore Dontay Demus, who caught 13 passes for 278 yards last season. DJ Turner figures to be a staple in the slot, but beyond that, there are question marks.

Sean Savoy started his Maryland days as a defensive back, but he’s since been moved back to receiver, a position he made an impact at while playing at Virginia Tech. Darryl Jones and Brian Cobbs both could be in line for the starting No. 2 receiver job, but Carlos Carriere has impressed in fall camp and caught Locksley’s eye on multiple occasions (he’s repeatedly praised the redshirt sophomore’s development). Where he lands on the depth chart could be intriguing.

“We’ve got good depth there and every day one of those guys kind of steps up,” Locksley said after practice Aug. 20. “The way this offense will be operated, we try to spread the ball around and make you defend the whole field and defend every position. ... I can't say we have a guy that you would call the go-to guy or the alpha guy, but we feel good about the depth and the skill set that they all have shown.”

Who’s the odd man out at middle linebacker?

Isaiah Davis finished second on the Terps last season with 94 total tackles, behind only Tre Watson, now of the Miami Dolphins. He locked down one of the two starting linebacker spots, and the then-junior made the most of his opportunities.

But Davis was held out of spring camp with an injury and that paved the way for others to step up. Both Ayinde Eley and Chance Campbell got a lot of first-team reps in the veteran’s absence, and at Maryland’s media day, defensive coordinator Jon Hoke hinted that both Eley and Campbell could be the starters in the interior. In Hoke’s new 3-4 scheme, there may be a heavy rotation at linebacker, but in terms of the depth chart, Davis could find himself on the second-team defense.

“All three of those guys can play inside and we feel like we’ve got three really good ones there,” Locksley said after practice on Aug. 20. “We’ve got a pretty good battle going on inside. We expect all of them to contribute as if they all three are starters.”

Who fills in at free safety?

Heading into spring camp, Maryland’s last line of defense was expected to be comprised of former nickel cornerback Antoine Brooks Jr. at strong safety and Antwaine Richardson opposite him. However, Richardson became the first ACL victim of camp back in early April, ending his 2019 campaign before it ever began.

In his absence, both Deon Jones and Jordan Mosley were expected to compete for the starting job. Both sophomores — though Jones is a redshirt sophomore — showed glimpses in their playing time in 2018, but neither had carved out a significant role on the defense. Jones was a higher-rated recruit, but Mosley could have the edge and get the nod on tomorrow’s depth chart.

There’s also Nick Cross, who was a high four-star recruit coming out of DeMatha and could find playing time as a true freshman. He’s not necessarily expected to be high on the depth chart tomorrow, but as the season goes on, his athleticism could earn him more reps by the end of the year.

“[Cross] is a guy that obviously has taken advantage of his opportunities with his reps,” Locksley said on Aug. 10. “He’s still learning. There’s a huge learning curve for Nick and we’re going to do our part to develop him the right way. I’ve been pleased with him as far as pushing other guys. I’ve been pleased with his development and the pace he’s developing for us.”

While he isn’t as likely to start, Locksley has also brought up sophomore Fofie Bazzie when discussing in the free safety competition.

Who gets the nod at punter?

With the transfer of Wade Lees to UCLA, the Terps must look to a new punter. Anthony Pecorella, a class of 2019 signee who was rated a 4.5-star prospect by Kohl’s Kicking, could fill that role. He’s not on scholarship — currently listed as a preferred walk-on — but he could be Maryland’s best option. Colton Spangler is another freshman who joined the team this summer, and since neither were on campus in time for the spring game, we haven’t gotten a look at them. We did get to see Bentley Faulkner back in April, but his performance was one to forget, as he averaged 25.5 yards per punt (though he did have to battle the wind).